#79 The Snake in Shady Valley, TN

June 10, 2007
193 miles
Asheville RTE
Day 3

Sunday morning Barb and I were in the hotel's parking lot loading up to head our separate ways when I received a phone call. I said bye to Barb then chatted on the phone for a while as I programmed the day's planned route into the GPS.

When the rather lengthy call was over, I went to fire up Fleeter and get on the road, but ...
oops... weak to nearly dead battery. I had switched the key on to make note of my mileage when my phone rang. I got distracted and forgot to switch it off while on the phone call. The Motolights were shining away draining the battery while I chatted away. Darn!

But even though a problem cropped up...all was not lost. I had my Battery Tender, Jr., with me and there was an outside outlet about 20 feet away on the hotel's outside wall...right behind the flower bed. I just let Fleeter roll back and sit beside the curb. I hooked up the Battery Tender and juiced up the battery for about 15-20 minutes. That was plenty to fire up Fleeter and get us on the road. A bit of a delay, but while I waited I pulled out my laptop and revised my schedule to see where this delay would put me timewise. It would be close for me to make it to the Bluestone National Scenic River - Sandstone Visitor Center in West Virginia before they close at 5pm. My route will take me to other places and not the most direct route to Sandstone. I could alter my route, but I chose to stick with my original route and just see where it would get me.

It's a bit after 10am when I finally pull out of the hotel's parking lot. The first interesting sight I saw while leaving north out of Asheville on Hwy 19 was this covered wagon with the modern addition of rubber tires to make for a smoother ride and, in this case, highway speeds.

Technically, I guess they are still pulling that wagon BEHIND those horses...
US19 turns into I26 and is a very nice road as far Interstate super slabs go. I took the exit toward Elizabethton, Tennessee. Last time I was here (October '06), I took this photo of the covered bridge downtown. So this time I bypassed the historic downtown area. I made a quick stop at a State Park in Elizabethton where I thought I might find an Overmountain Trail stamp. Unfortunately, the park wouldn't open for another two hours. I'm not sticking around that long to get inside. Maybe next time I come through...TN91 turned into a road with a nice twist as it got closer to Shady Valley, Tennessee. I had heard that there were some nice roads around Shady Valley, but I had no idea how popular these roads were with motorcyclists.

When I pulled into the 4-way stop that is known as Shady Valley, Tennessee, I got my first clue... The number of motorcycles parked at the Country Store. And this sign could of also been a clue. This popularity has been embraced by the General Store.

Per the sign...
1 valley, 3 mountains, 489 curves
One of the twistier roads has been dubbed The Snake.
While in the parking lot, a fellow motorcyclist offered to take a picture of me and Fleeter. After she took the photo, Sara and I stood around and chatted for a while. I feel fairly certain now that I will not get to Sandstone Visitor Center before 5pm. But that's okay...finding a new friend is always more important than staying on schedule OR getting a stamp.
Apparently Shady Valley is a big enough place to be famous for more than one thing.
Home of the Cranberry Festival...Who knew?
At Shady Valley, TN91 turned into TN133 and continues NE to Damascus, Virginia. This is the route I took. However, US431 running mostly NW/SE through Shady Valley seems to be a road worth coming back and getting to know on a more personal level. It is now on The List.
But the route I chose, TN133, was worthy of a T-shirt. Here it is.You can't miss the Backbone Rock Tunnel.

I entered Virginia at Damascus and make my way toward Austinvile.
Okay you Texans out there... Here's some Texas history for you.
Austinville, Virginia ... the birthplace of Stephen F. Austin -- THE FATHER OF TEXAS.
I pulled over and studied the map, drive times, and available motels. Though this place near Austinville, Virginia was probably a real prize in its day, but I don't think this is where I'll be staying tonight.
There is not enough time to make it to Sandstone before 5pm, but I still want to keep it on the list. So I'll spend the night somewhere and catch it in the morning. Focusing on the coupon booklets, I pick out a few possibilities. Great price ($45) on a Sleep Inn in Beckley / Beaver, West Virginia that's just a few miles away from the Visitor Center. I call them...booked up. It's not even 4pm yet. Glad I called first. Next best deal...Sleep Inn in Wytheville, Virginia ($47.95). This would be an earlier motel stop than what I'm used to, but that's okay. I've told myself that I want to start shifting my road time to earlier hours of the day -- get earlier starts and stopping earlier. Advantages are obvious: Cooler riding in the morning vs. the heat of the day AND easier to get a coupon room earlier in the evening. Just because I got a late start this morning doesn't mean I can't start right now with my new schedule. So by 4pm, I am checked into a $47.95 room at Sleep Inn and ordering a small steak dinner at the Sagebrush Steakhouse across the parking lot. Life is good.
Tomorrow: Is Paint Bank a place to safely store your paints?

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